There are lots of stories going around about AOL lately. Let’s clear some of them up.
- Myth #1: AOL no longer sells dial-up access.
False. AOL still sells dial-up and BYOA (Bring-Your-Own-Access). The good news is, AOL is down to 4 million subscribers from an all-time high of 25 million subscribers in 2005, with more subscribers fleeing each month.
- Myth #2: AOL does nothing but provide dial-up and BYOA access.
False. AOL does much more. AOL recently thought it was an ad company, but now thinks it’s a media company. Access is something AOL doesn’t “focus” on anymore, because most of AOL’s customer service and tech support calls are handled by employees in India, and the infrastructure for dial-up practically runs itself.
- Myth #3: AOL still blankets the US with CDs.
False. AOL does limited distribution of CDs by bundling them with Dex phone books or by sending them to certain bloggers, but other than that, the days of waiting breathlessly for your next coaster are over.
- Myth #4: The name “AOL” is now written out as “Aol.”.
False. The new “Aol.” moniker is a prime example of “branding”, like how I changed my blog’s name a few years ago, to improve my, um, “brand”. I’d prefer if you call my blog “Anti-AOL” now, but if you still call it “Marah’s AOL Log”, that’s OK, too. It wasn’t a legal name change, and neither was AOL’s. You can write its name out however you want. I prefer “AOHell” and “Aolol”, myself.
- Myth #5: “Aol.” is a meaningless brand meant to catch your eye and nothing more.
Well, yeah. But, no, not technically speaking. False. Supposedly, when you choose Aol., you choose the best brand for your lifestyle. (I know…the whole idea makes me sick, too.) So you don’t visit a blog on AOL; you visit “blog.Aol.” Adding the “Aol.” appendage makes you seem smarter and cooler (or, if you’re old school, l33t3r) than the rest of us.
- Myth #6: “Aol.” is pronounced…differently, so how do you pronounce it?
False. You pronounce it the same way.
- Myth #7: It is still impossible, damn it, to cancel your AOL account.
False. You can cancel your paid or free AOL account simply by filling out the online cancel form, unless you live in Washington, DC (AOL programmers forgot to let the District of Columbia in on the magic).
- Myth #8: I can cancel your AOL account for you, if you just leave me a comment anywhere on this blog saying something snotty like, “Do away with my service”.
Hello people, let’s get real: I can’t do that, OK? But the good news is, I think these people can.
Imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox this morning to see a bright, shiny AOL CD lying on top of my new Embarq phone book. The phone book was shrink-wrapped to prevent the contents, which included an AARP life insurance offer, from spilling to the ground.
After taking a few photos of the CD, I grew curious as to why it was bundled with my phone book. I thought AOL stopped burying the country in free CDs years ago. So began my gum-shoeing, which isn’t quite finished.
AOL stopped sending discs out to everyone in mid-2006…everyone, that is, except me. It’s probably a test to see who I am: “She’s the only person we’ll send this disc to; if she writes about it like she did the other one…bingo.”
Well, I always thought AOL knew who I was, anyway.
They don’t use the all-time-greatest-hits hard plastic case anymore; now it’s in a tiny, neutrally-tinted, yawn-inducing clear plastic sleeve. There’s no version number on the outside, either. It’s a surprise! You must open it to find out! This was just as exciting as peaking under the tree on Christmas Eve. So I popped the disc into my computer (the disc doesn’t have the version number on it, either! It really is a surprise) and AOL’s underwhelming software began walking me through one sign-up window after another.
Using AOL’s software is like giving your computer cancer. It uses hundreds of program files to change IE’s default settings, reconfigures your modem and dialer, installs Real Player and other unwanted programs, adds up to 1000 registry keys (sometimes more, depending on which version you use) and it sets itself as the default dialer so getting online with other dial-up ISPs is difficult, if not impossible.
AOL 9.0 SE keeps nine processes running at all times – even when you’re signed off. Other versions of AOL keep up to 5 processes running (including AOL 9.0 VR – which uses 4 processes to stay “always-on” and connected). AOL’s constant, intensive use of your computer’s resources slows it down and wears the hardware out before its time.
I wrote this on December 13, 2005 as the follow-up to Why America Online can bite me, which I wrote on December 11, 2005, long after I canceled my last AOL account. The letter from the BBB that’s reprinted here is in response to my complaint that AOL wanted to charge me $50 for an “early cancellation.”
I got another free trial from AOL in the mail today, and an email from the BBB about AOL tonight. AOL sent so many discs they had to pack them in a box. I haven’t unwrapped this cool “Alumni Gift” yet but I’ll look at the discs soon just for fun. I wish I had a spare computer to wreck with their latest offerings just to remind myself how much AOL sucks. The “gift”-box is a monstrous 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ by 3/4″. Apparently it’s their Greatest Hits collection. There’s three big lies written across the front of it: